I’ve just gotten off the phone with an old friend. One who has seen the changes, challenges and situations that have been a part of my life since I moved to Chicago in 2002. He was pointing out to me just how much "new" and change I’d experienced in just the past three months, not to mention the last four years. But even before that, there was much to be dealt with, all of which affected my state of being when I left Pittsburgh. Let me tell you a story…
Nine years ago, a week after my wedding to a man I’d met in person just two weeks before – it followed the conventional indian system of my father placing an advertisement on my behalf for matrimonial purposes – I left New Delhi, India where I’d been living since 91 to move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To be accurate, it was Monroeville, PA.
Only cliches spring to my mind as I attempt to recount my experiences in Pittsburgh until I finally moved to Chicago in July 2002. Suffice to say that in those four short years I learnt to navigate a new continent, culture, city and then some. A few snippets come to mind, when I came to the US in the spring of 1998, I was told that the only way I could get a job/work permit, with my resume and degree was to learn some programming language like Visual Basic and attempt to join the hordes of indian software guys invading the shores of the country. I refused.
I thought to give myself six months to do this, and within four had been interviewed by The Second City’s Pittsburgh office, yes we had one there, then, which was Second City Communications, the corporate comedy and live events division of the reknowned improv comedy theatre. Come now, even Stephen Colbert is an Second City "grad", as we call them back at the improv school. I went to work for them for a peanut and a prayer. My task was to bring in new business and generate revenue. Which I set to with a vengeance. My first project, that I brought in, within 6 weeks of joining the company, on a new continent, was a tiny little booth for WorldSpace corporation. They had a ten year plan and had just launched their first satellite. It is good to see just how far they’ve come and what a big difference its going to make in the lives of so many.
I learnt a lot in a very short time by going to work for The Second City. I travelled to Chicago frequently to the theatre on North Wells where our head office was located. Joe Keefe, whose business card said "Grand Poobah of Comedy" was my boss. So you can imagine that my first corporate meeting of Second City Communications consisted of improv writers and performers chasing me around the room with tomahawks yelling "Squaw" – I kept telling them I wasn’t that kind of an indian girl. Within my first year in the United States I had signed up our largest client and project in terms of scope and size of single contract. Best of all, they were an Australian software company headquartered in Perth, West Australia and I’d met them by chance at Comdex 98 in Las Vegas. Those were the heady days of the high tech industry and ultimately I came to axed, or beached or laid off as the money started drying up by the end of 1999. Luckily I had already applied and been accepted to the 11th month accelerated MBA program at the University of Pittsburgh. I started school a few months after we sold every thing in the Pittsburgh SCC office, including the furniture.
Anyway to leap from there to Chicago and now to San Francisco, where I’ve been self employed for 18 months now has been a somewhat wild and crazy journey. One that I’ve just begun to write. this conversation will continue.